Shelters for battered women do amazing things. I know, because I volunteered for one in California during college and worked for another in Texas after graduate school. But the three years of experience I got in that world also left me kind of jaded. It's not just the fact that there is never enough money to help people the way you want to, or that working in an office of only women makes you want to grab a random guy off the street and nail him to the floor just to break up the flow of estrogen. It's that every group you interact with inevitably lets you down at some point.
#4. The Survivors Might Not Survive
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Just a quick vocabulary lesson before we get started: The women and children who receive services from these organizations are no longer called victims; they are called survivors.
And this is their anthem.
That is one reason why it's so disheartening that there is such a small chance they will escape their situation even once they have left their abuser. Or, to use the correct terminology, their dickwad less-than-human waste of space that should be thrown in a hole and left there. That was always hard to fit on the forms.
When you are devoting your time to helping people get out of abusive relationships, it is maddening to know that 85 percent of women who leave their abusers will return, some of them as many as seven or eight times. You'll see women using the shelter like it has a revolving front door. And there is nothing you can do to stop it, since chaining them up is probably a step further than even their asshole husband or boyfriend went.
Reconciling is part of a pattern in abusive relationships: The abuser will finally do something so terrible that the woman leaves. Then, once she is safe, she stops being angry and starts feeling like she overreacted or worries that her abuser can't live without her. If she does contact him, he will enter what is called the Honeymoon Phase of an abusive relationship, where he'll shower her with gifts and promise everything's different now, which, as far as biggest lies ever, is right up there with "I am not a crook" and "Read my lips: No new taxes." Then that phase ends, the hitting starts again, and the woman is back in your shelter.
That is if you can even get her to leave him in the first place. I got a call from one woman who was bedridden and completely dependent on her abusive husband for food and medication. She obviously knew she needed to leave since she was calling me, but she kept talking about how he needed her. Finally, I asked if she was willing to die rather than leave him, which was a real possibility since he was withholding medication from her. She said yes. The call ended shortly after that, and I never heard from her again.
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But that's OK because ducklings!
I would encounter situations like that all the time. It's almost like working in a rehab clinic. You are desperately trying to break people of their habit in the short period of time that you have, and the success stories are few and far between. Don't get me wrong; that 15 percent of women who do make it out are worth it. But you still spend the vast majority of your time knowing that your efforts are basically useless.
#3. The Donors Can Be Controlling
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There are thousands of charities out there, and most of them are so desperate for money that they will perform the services of a cheap whore if it gets them through the next quarter. While everyone is familiar with the big-name charities like Habitat for Humanity and Goodwill, a lot of the most effective ones are small and local. But they are in a constant battle against those larger, "sexier" charities for the limited donations people are able to give. And getting money from people can be like prying a gun from Charlton Heston's cold dead hands.
One of the issues is that the average person isn't aware of the day-to-day workings of a charity. A study found that people would be inclined to give more money if they saw something "wonderful" as a direct result. It's hard to explain that there won't always be one huge amazing thing that we can point to and say, "Your money did this." Every donation helps in a million little ways, and those small victories are what really count. Sadly, your $100, while hugely appreciated, is not going to end domestic violence.
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At least until I'm in charge, when it will buy the shovels to dig the pit to throw all the f**kers in.
Even when people do donate, they can make you work for it. I understand that there are some charities out there that are little more than scams, but if you do your research first you should be donating to one that puts all its money to good use. That is why it can be frustrating when donations have strings attached. Once again, people want their money to go to "sexy" stuff. It's great if you want to help buy a new van, but if all the donations are tied up in that when what we really need is more toilet paper for the house, you see the issue.